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Air leakage in homes


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QuestionWith energy costs rising, what can I do to make my home as tight as possible so all my expensive warm air doesn't end up heating the neighborhood?

AnswerThe bulk of energy loss is caused by dozens of small holes and cracks around your home that allow air leakage. It seems unbelievable, but if you added up all the holes in an average home, you'd have a giant 5' hole in the wall. Ouch! That's the same as keeping your front door open all winter.

Of a home's total air leakage, approximately one-fifth occurs in the basement: 1 percent passes out through basement floors and 20 percent through basement walls. Walls and ceilings account for another 23 percent of air leakage: 17 percent and 5 percent, respectively. All those wires, pipes and ducts running through the walls and ceiling let cold air in and warm air out.

The biggest culprits are all those big holes in the building, also known as "doors" and "windows." Doors account for 3 percent loss, windows account for 16 percent, and cracks in walls, windows, and doors, account for a whopping 38 percent.

The easiest and least expensive fix is to purchase a can of expanding insulating foam found at home centers and discount stores. Then look around your house for holes, cracks, and gaps and fill them. Here's where to look:

Inside:
    • Gapping baseboards
    • Window and door frames
    • Around (not inside) electrical junction boxes
    • Wire and pipe penetrations
    • Air, heating, and dryer vents

Basements/Attics:
    • Pipe and duct penetrations
    • Plumbing stacks and shafts
    • Wall cracks
    • Along the sillplate and floor/wall junction

Outside:
    • At the bottom of the siding edge, where it
       meets the foundation
    • Electric, gas, and air conditioning penetrations
    • Along garage ceiling and wall joints
    • Faucets and Dryer vents

Not only will you save money and keep warm this winter, but mice and insects will be blocked from entry.

In addition to sealing gaps with expanding foam insulation, you can also reduce your heating bill in other fairly low-cost ways:

  • Change your furnace filter regularly (and save about $100/year);
  • Install a programmable thermostat (and save about $100/year);
  • Vacuum registers and vents regularly (and save about $30/year);
  • Open curtains and blinds in the day to take advantage of the sun's natural warmth, but be sure to close them at night (and save about $50/year). Insulated draperies will dramatically improve the comfort of your home

Finally, reap some benefits at tax time. Many energy saving home improvement products are eligible for a tax deduction. Visit www.energystar.gov for more information.

Copyright © 2007 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved.
Question answered by Leon A. Frechette.


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